Salary.com does a survey every year of time wasting in the workplace. The 2008 report revealed that 75% of employees engage in time wasting behaviors, and half of those surveyed stated that they waste time dealing with office politics.
The faces of politics are many. It might take the form of someone holding onto turf by “throwing you under the boss”, a boss who doesn’t “get you” or promote you, or colleagues or bosses who don’t get back to you yet you are held accountable.
Working with other people, or in an organization, inherently puts you in a situation where other people have control over your deliverables, and thus over your future in some way. There is a lot at stake, and when you don’t feel like you have control over the things that are most important to you (i.e, your salary/raise, your recognition, your reputation, your free time, etc.) it can raise significant feelings of frustration, anger, and disappointment.
I notice that I am spending an increasing amount of time with my executive coaching clients helping them deal with politics as the people around them seem increasingly resistant to change, turf-oriented, undignified in the way they handle layoffs, etc. In our coaching we map out how my client can keep their job and get promoted by improving relationships with colleagues and bosses, and influencing decision makers to buy into their ideas.
Here are 2 tips for how to deal with politics so that it doesn’t drain you of essential time and energy:
1) Your new mantra is: Be impeccable for your 50%. This is the first and most important tip to focus on in cleaning up your contribution to any ‘politics’ situation. It's always tempting to point fingers at other people’s bad behavior. First “clean up your own backyard” and make sure that your communication is respectful, that you are inclusive and seek input, and that you are reaching out and supporting other people. I’m not suggesting this to encourage altruism (well, that too, but its not the only reason)! When you are impeccable for your 50%, here are the benefits: You get to control what you can control. You have a lot of power when you are in a position to point out the dysfunctions of others without anyone being able to point a finger back at your “bad behavior”. The more you are impeccable in the way you create relationships, the more people will trust you and ‘have your back”. When others speak well of your behavior, it is far more powerful than when you seek recognition for yourself. While others are distracted putting their efforts into short term efforts to “try to look good”, you be the one to put efforts into making lasting results and relationships.
2) Be clear about what your ultimate goal is – and err on the side of acting for your long term goal instead of how you “feel like reacting” in the moment. For example, I had a client who clearly asserted that a certain sales incentive program should stay in place when a number of people around her wanted to kill it. The company ended the program and sales tanked. The brand new president called a meeting and wanted to know why numbers were so low – no one responsible for the decision spoke up.
You can imagine that my client wanted to say that she defended the program but all that would have accomplished is shaming her colleagues in public. She knew that the President would dig into the reasons for the drop in numbers and that she would ultimately look good. You don’t always have to make your point in the moment, sometimes you can let the situation unfold or seek opportunities to state your case either outside a public meeting, or when the topic is brought up repeatedly over time. Similarly, you don’t necessarily have to be the one to point out others’ flawed ideas or inefficient work. Sometimes it can be more effective with someone who is ineffective or controlling to ‘give them enough rope, let them hang themselves’!
Stay focused on being innovative and effective in your own position and don’t allow yourself to get caught up in what everybody else is doing and saying. You will be the one to get noticed!
Join us for a free webcast on October 14th on Chaos to Control. Register here. You can learn the skills and techniques to manage office politics and other time sucks that get in the way of your productivity here.
Sharon Melnick, Ph.D. is a psychologist informed by 10 years of research at Harvard Medical School whose techniques help talented and successful people "get out of their own way”. She has helped emerging leaders get promoted faster at Deutsche Bank, Oracle Corp, Deloitte Consulting, Pitney Bowes, Visiting Nurses Service NY, FreddieMac; and has helped numerous entrepreneurs have the confidence to grow their business more than 50% in difficult economic times.
She has appeared as an expert for Success Television, Huffington Post, Air America, American Management Assocation, Monster.com, Natural Health, and Ebony Magazine.
To download her free Special Report Blocked! How to Unlock Yourself from Getting in The Way of Your Own Way of Career Success in Stressful Times, go now to www.sharonmelnick.com.
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